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Film review: Demolition – Jake Gyllenhaal plays a quirky wreck in unconventional grief drama

The busy actor drives an oddball odyssey you’ll either deeply buy into or promptly reject

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 April, 2016, 3:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 April, 2016, 10:30am

3/5 stars

French-Canadian director Jean-Marc Vallée has been on a roll these past three years: Dallas Buyers Club won Oscars for Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto, while 2014’s Wild gained star Reese Witherspoon an Oscar nomination. Scripted by Bryan Sipe, Demolition is a similarly adult drama where performances come first, although this emotionally grinding tale about grief and self-destruction never quite finds the acute human touch that Vallée’s two previous films did.

Jake Gyllenhaal, on a roll, too, after full-blooded turns in Southpaw and Nightcrawler , plays Davis Mitchell, a white-collar office worker who goes off the rails after his wife dies in a car accident. He doesn’t cry or do the other “traditional” things people associate with loss. Instead, he takes a sledgehammer to his pristine suburban house, loses the faith of his father-in-law/boss (Chris Cooper) and, most curiously, starts writing letters to the company responsible for a faulty vending machine.

In Demolition, Jake Gyllenhaal channels his grief into an unusual home makeover

While this catches the attention of Naomi Watts’ customer service rep, Davis’ increasingly irrational behaviour drives this oddball odyssey – one you’ll either buy into wholeheartedly or dismiss out of hand. Credit Vallée – one of the best actors’ directors working in Hollywood – for going out on a limb here, depicting the unusual ways inner turmoil can manifest itself. The risk-taking doesn’t entirely come off. But in an era of vapid studio movies, it’d be churlish to complain.

Demolition opens on April 14

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